Editorial: Three cheers

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 11:29 PM

Hats off to road workers, first responders

While this week’s snowstorm wasn’t a large as many that have hit the area in year’s past, there was a factor that made it unique — it’s surprising arrival.

Most were expecting nothing when they went to bed Monday night — weather forecasts had largely shown the weather system moving by to the south of us.  In fact, area road crews were at a state-assigned seminar when the snow started Tuesday morning.

While roads were bad initially, once the crews were back in town the main arteries were cleared swiftly, allowing regular commerce to resume.

During the period of slick roadways, area police, fire and rescue did a great job responding to increased call volume — nearly double that of a normal day. Overall there were few injury accidents reported across the county.

Warning of higher bills

Both the Sevier County Electric System and Sevier County Utility District have done a good job of publicly warning customers of the likely large increases they’d see on the bills due to increased usage.

Though rates for electric service have actually decreased by a few percentage points since last year, actual use by customers — because of the colder weather — has made bills higher, said SCES officials.

While it seems like common sense that bills would run high in an especially cold winter, many users aren’t prepared when they see the dollar figures associated with keeping their home warm in sub-freezing temperatures.

Fortunately, both the electric and gas providers have boards that are understanding of the budgetary issues this may cause, and there are plans available to help customers who struggle with the potentially large winter bills. The electric system’s levelized billing program, for example, bills customers for a 12-month rolling average rather than for the individual use of the month.

Rocky Top starts out strong

Rocky Top Sports World, the multi-million dollar sports complex that’s a partnership between Sevier County and the city of Gatlinburg and opens this summer, announced this week that it’s already booked 19 tournament events for the 2014-2015 sports season.

“We have been working with right holders, events owners and the SFA corporate offices for months to secure bookings,” Lori Moore, the facility’s marketing manager, said. “The fact that we are not pre-selling the space should give local lodging, attraction and restaurant owners reason to celebrate.”

Should the facility continue to book tournaments and events to bring more athletes and their families to the area, it will mean not only additional tourism dollars, but new tourists to our area, Steve Morse, an economist from Western Carolina, has said.

The first group of announced bookings are promising for Gatlinburg and the larger area. We look forward to hearing of more events scheduled soon. The site is a big investment for both the city and the county.